Sunday, May 29, 2016


In 1996 Brassey's published my novel Hellcats, the second installment in my still uncompleted "Dauntless Trilogy."   For the dedication I wanted to represent ten Grumman F6F pilots who perished in helping win the Second World War, with pilots from ten squadrons on ten carriers who died from different causes.   It took some doing, but I met my criteria. 

One of the aviators had special significance to me: Ensign Paul Spradling of Buhl, Idaho, had been one of my father's room mates in Civilian Pilot Training before proceeding to the Navy.  Sometimes I wonder how many folks in Buhl still remember him.

There's another sentiment worth recording, the essence of today's message:

One of the epigrams is from the late Elvin Lindsay, an ace of VF-19 aboard Lexington (CV-16).  He said, "The one thing that bothers me 50 years later is when people say that all those young guys 'gave their lives' like my best friend Roger Boles.  He didn't 'give' his life--it was torn from him at an early age.  I never will forget that."

Boles was 27 years old: here is a tribute to him:

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

Dedicated to these ten, to the squadronmates they represent, and to those who still remember them as forever young.

Lieutenant Karl B. Satterfield (age 28)
VF-5, USS Yorktown CV-10
Killed in air combat over Kwajalein Atoll, 4 December 1943

Lieutenant George Formanek, Jr. (24)
VF-30, USS Monterey CVL-26
Struck trees while strafing over New Guinea, 23 April 1944

Lieutenant Commander Ernest W. Wood, Jr. (28)
CVLG-27, USS Princeton CVL-23
Lost to structural failure in combat near the Marianas, 19 June 1944

Ensign Frank T. Vitkusky (27)
VF-14, USS Wasp CV-18
Lost in water landing, Western Pacific, 12 July 1944

Ensign Joseph Kelley (24)
VF-19, USS Lexington CV-16
Murdered by Japanese cannibals in the Bonin Islands, 5 August 1944

Ensign Kenneth “C” Chase (20)
VF-11, USS Hornet CV-12
Killed by Japanese AA fire near Okinawa, 10 October 1944

Ensign Jack S. Berkheimer (20)
VF(N)-41, USS Independence CVL-22
Killed in night intercept over the Philippines, 16 December 1944

Ensign Paul K. Spradling (22)
VF-82, USS Bennington CV-20
Killed by US AA gunners off Japan, 16 February 1945

Lieutenant (jg) Irl “V” Sonner (25)
VF-29, USS Cabot CVL-28
Killed in flight-deck crash, Western Pacific, 22 March 1945

Lieutenant (jg) John J. Sargent, Jr. (26)
Formerly VF-18, USS Bunker Hill CV-17
Killed in kamikaze attack off Okinawa, 11 May 1945